A hyrax: noisier than your average rodent
Just returned from Kenya, and the final stages of working with Wangari Maathai
on her autobiography. We stayed in Lang'ata, a suburb about ten miles from downtown Nairobi, and home to the Green Belt Movement
training center. It is also home to a bunch of monkeys and the cute, but extremely vociferous, hyrax, a small rodent that makes the most god-awful noise during the night: a series of loud clacking noises followed by another series of despairing screams that would not be out of place in the shower scene from Psycho
Now, as an animal advocate, I am normally thrilled to experience close up any furry or exotic fauna. However, lying under my mosquito net, jetlagged, at three a.m., after ten hours of work, the hyrax's bloodcurdling laments did not warm my heart to the critter.
There were, by my estimation, about three of the little buggers in the vicinity: two sufficiently far away that their calls could have easily slipped through my unconscious state. The third, however, was on the roof immediately above me. He or she would remain quiet for about half an hour before one of his or her fellows piped up. I would send thought-waves into the darkness: "Now, my friend," I'd think, "you don't have to reply. You can let it pass, not enter the conversation, pretend you've gone out. Don't say anything! Please!" But, sure enough, there would be the clacking, the pause, and then the bloodcurdling screeches that sound like fingernails down fifty blackboards all at once.
Apart from that, being in Kenya was pretty interesting. Kenyan president, Mwai Kibaki, finally announced a new cabinet, after he had sacked the previous one after losing a referendum on Kenya's putative new constitution, and Wangari Maathai was reappointed to her position as assistant minister for the environment. Unfortunately, a large number of the new appointees refused to take up their positions, which means that elections in the new year remain a distinct possibility. No bloodshed yet, thankfully, but Kenya is once more politically unstable.